Editor Michael D. Coogan’s World Religions is a comprehensive body of work. It focuses on: 1) origins and historical developments; 2) aspects of the Divine; 3) sacred texts; 4) sacred persons; 5) ethical principles; 6) sacred space; 7) sacred time; 8) death and the afterlife; and 9) society and religion.
Coogan examined the wealth of each tradition. In the case of Christianity he looked at its beginnings, two millennia of faith, and the Christian canon. In Islam he explored the age of empires, approaches to God, and the word of God. While with Hinduism there was an examination of five millennia of traditional beliefs, gods and goddesses, and words of devotion. Neither did Coogan exclude the Buddhist, Chinese, and Japanese traditions.
The author wrote that one way that the Divine was manifested to humans was through inspired scripture and other writings. He described how every literate community has produced collections of texts composed, assembled, and edited over the centuries. Each of these religions recognized their founders, saints, holy men and women, and martyrs, who were essential to the tradition. And enshrined in the sacred texts are embodied ethical principles concerning how these individuals lived, and what they taught their followers. Each religious tradition also recognized special times of the year for private and communal acts of religious observance.
Major forms of a tradition’s belief system are focused on religious practices and beliefs concerning the cycle of life — birth, maturity, work, marriage, suffering, and death. These affairs in one’s lives are celebrated by unique rituals in every faith. Religion has therefore been a catalyst in shaping and molding its adherents to have values, and live lives in their respective societies.